The Civil Services Examination (CSE) is a nationwide competitive examination in India conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment to higher Civil Services of the Government of India, including the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Indian Police Service. Also simply referred to as the UPSC examination, it is conducted in three phases: a preliminary examination consisting of two objective-type papers (General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II also popularly known as Civil Service Aptitude Test or CSAT), and a main examination consisting of nine papers of conventional (essay) type, in which two papers are qualifying and only marks of seven are counted followed by a personality test (interview). A successful candidate sits for 32 hours of examination during the complete process spanning around one year.
|Developer / administrator||Union Public Service Commission|
|Knowledge / skills tested||Writing, English, General knowledge, others|
|Purpose||Selection of candidates to the various posts of Civil Services of India|
|Duration||2 hours/paper (Prelims) |
3 hours/paper (Mains)
1 Variable duration of personality test
|Score / grade range||0 - 200 (Prelims)[a] |
0 - 1750 (Mains)
0 - 275 (Interview)
Total: 2025 ( Mains + Interview)
|Offered||Once a year|
|Restrictions on attempts||6 (General) |
9 (OBC & PwBD- General)
no limits for SC & ST candidates
|Countries / regions||India|
|Languages||Question paper is only given in Hindi or English. Answers can be given in any one of the scheduled languages of India|
|Annual number of test takers||10,40,060 Applicants (2020)|
4,82,770 Appeared in Prelims (2020)
|Prerequisites / eligibility criteria||Must be a graduate, and an Indian citizen.[b]|
|Fee||₹ 100/- (for general male candidates). For other categories of candidates, the registration fee is exempted.|
|Scores / grades used by||Union Public Service Commission for the selection of the students to the various Civil Services of India|
The Civil Services Examination is based on the British era Imperial Civil Service tests, as well as the civil service tests conducted by old Indian empires such as the Mauryan Empire and Mughal Empire. It is one of the most difficult competitive examinations in India. A single attempt can take two complete years of preparation - one year before the prelims and one year from prelims to interview. On average, 900,000 to 1,000,000 candidates apply every year and the number of candidates sitting in the preliminary examination is approximately 550,000. Results for the Prelims are published in mid-August, while the final result is published in May of the next year.
After the completion of Medical examination of the successful candidates and other necessary formalities, the training program for the selected candidates usually commences the following September.
Eligibility for the examination is as follows:
the candidate must be a citizen of India.
All candidates must have as a minimum one of the following educational qualifications:
The following candidates are also eligible, but must submit proof of their eligibility from a competent authority at their institute/university at the time of the main examination, failing which they will not be allowed to attend the exam.
The candidate must have attained the age of 21 years and must not have attained the age of 32 years (for the General category candidate) on 1 August of the year of examination. Prescribed age limits vary with respect to caste reservations.
The number of times a candidate can appear for the exam are given below.
Appearing to attempt one of the papers in the preliminary examination is counted as an attempt, including disqualification/ cancellation of candidature. However, applying to sit the exam but failing to attend is not counted as an attempt.
Generally the number of vacancies varies every year. The number of candidates that pass the preliminary examination is generally 11 or 12 times the number of vacancies, and the number of candidates selected for the final interview is twice the number of vacancies. As per existing policies, reservation for SC/ST/OBC is applied to each level of the selection process.
|Year||No. of candidates applying for Prelims||No. of candidates that appeared for||No. of candidates
appearing for interviews
|No. of candidates selected||Final |
The cut-off marks of the examination of the previous years' are given below:
(out of 1750)
(out of 2025)
Following are the services which one gets on qualifying the Civil Service Examination.
All India Services
Central Services (Group A)
Group B Services
The pattern of the Preliminary examination up to 2010 was based on the recommendations of the Kothari Commission (1979). It included two examinations, one on general studies worth 150 marks, and the second on one of 23 optional subjects worth 300 marks. Until 2011, when it was revamped, the preliminary pattern was sustained with only minor changes once every ten to fifteen years.
From 2011 onwards, the preliminary examination intends to focus on analytical abilities and understanding rather than the ability to memorize. The new pattern includes two papers of two hours duration and 200 marks each. Both papers have multiple choice objective type questions only. They are as follows:
In August 2014, the Centre announced that English marks in CSAT will not be included for gradation or merit and 2011 candidates may get a second chance to appear for the test next year.
In May 2015, the Government of India announced that Paper II of the preliminary examination will be qualifying in nature i.e. it will not be graded for eligibility in Mains Examination and a candidate will need to score at least 33% to be eligible for grading on the basis of marks of Paper I of the Preliminary Examination. Those who qualify in the Prelims become eligible for the Mains.
The Civil Services Mains Examination consists of a written examination and an interview.
The Civil Services Main written examination consists of nine papers, two qualifying and seven ranking in nature. The range of questions may vary from just one mark to sixty marks, twenty words to 600 words answers. Each paper is of a duration of 3 hours. Candidates who pass qualifying papers are ranked according to marks and a selected number of candidates are called for interview or a personality test at the Commission's discretion.
According to the new marks allocations in Civil Service Examination 2013 there are some changes made in the examination according to the suggestion of the Prof. Arun. S. Nigavekar Committee. However, after some controversy, the qualifying papers for Indian languages and English were restored.
|Paper A[A]||(One of the Indian languages listed below, to be selected by the candidate (from the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India) (Qualifying)||300|
|Paper B||English (Qualifying)||300|
|Paper II||General Studies I (Indian heritage and culture, history and geography of the world and society)||250|
|Paper III||General Studies II (Governance, constitution, polity, social justice and international relations)||250|
|Paper IV||General Studies III (Technology, economic development, bio-diversity, environment, security and disaster management)||250|
|Paper V||General Studies IV (ethics, integrity and aptitude)||250|
|Paper VI||Two papers on one subject to be selected by the candidate from the list of optional subjects below (250 marks for each paper)||250|
|Sub Total (Written Test)||1750|
|Personality Test (Interview)||275|
The examination is available in the following languages, with the name of the script in parenthesis:
The subjects available for Papers VI and VII are:
Unofficially called the "interview", the objective of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a board of competent and unbiased observers. The test is intended to evaluate the mental calibre of a candidate. In broad terms, this is really an assessment of not only a candidate's intellectual qualities, but also social traits and interest in current affairs. Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, and intellectual and moral integrity.
The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination, but of a natural, though directed and purposeful conversation that is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.
The interview is not intended to test either of the specialized or general knowledge of the candidate, which has been already tested through written papers. Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study, but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their own state or country as well as in modern currents of thought and in new discoveries which should rouse the curiosity of all well-educated youth. The interview standards are very high and require thorough preparation as well as commitment.